Normally my situational awareness is pretty good, but this technique caught me unawares for a brief moment.
On our first day touring Quito in Ecuador, we stopped at the edge of a park to consult a map. Suddenly I was sprayed by a brown unpleasant smelling liquid. Looking up I saw nothing, but a nice man pointed out pigeons and offered me a tissue. This pigeon would have to have been the size of a pelican considering the volume that hit me. Out of nowhere, two other men offered to help clean my shirt since I was suddenly struck again. All three men were very swarthy, albeit short. One was nice enough to bend down in front of me to clean my pant leg. He nicely proceed to feel up my right front pocket and moved over to the left. Never put things in your back pocket.
The Mountain Equipment Co-op pants happen to come with zippers on both front pockets. This undoubtedly saved the situation somewhat. This lightly upset their highly polished routine. But they managed to grab my iPhone and were working on the wallet. Since the leader was still in front of me bending down and attempting to grab my wallet from my now unzipped front pocket, I reciprocated and firmly and not gently grabbed the nape of this neck. This allowed him to drop the phone and back away and revert to his normal helpful persona.
We were aware of this splash and grab technique from Spain. A younger group by-passed us and splashed coffee on the older couple a few seconds behind us. They made off with wallets and passports before we could do anything.
As they say. S**T happens.
#Quito #travel #theft
Here we are at the Daulatabad Fort which is a historical fortified citadel located in Aurangabad India. Interestingly Lord Shiva is believed to have stayed on the hills surrounding this region and the fort was called Devagiri, meaning Hills of Gods.
The surrounding moat used to be filled with crocodiles to deter enemies.
The Chand Minar can be seen through the archway. This means tower of the moon and was erected in 1445 to commemorate the capture of the fort. One of the finest examples of Indo-Islamic architecture in southern India.
We arrived in Mumbai to stay at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. This is a heritage, five-star, luxury hotel built in the Saracenic Revival style in the Colaba region. The Gateway to India is in front of it.
The hotel has 560 rooms and 44 suites with 1600 staff.
This became one of the main sites during the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Ten men associated with the terror group Lashkar-e-Tayyiba stormed the building. After three days, nine of the gunmen were killed during the Indian commando raid. One attacker survived. Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving gunman, was executed in November 2012.
The group apparently wanted to strike a blow against Indian wealth and progress. Security was much tighter when we stayed there.
Security was especially tight in the airports where security have heavily armored placements throughout. I didn’t have enough nerve to take a picture of such a placement since photos were quite forbidden.
We were doing a simple walk about during our first days in Mumbai. This is when we came across this cafe. I was not aware of its notoriety at the time.
We generally knew that the cafe was mentioned extensively in the novel Shantaram and its sequel The Mountain Shadow, which is why we stopped. It was particularly known as a popular hangout for foreign tourists.
The cafe became an early site of gunfire and grenade explosions during the 2008 Mumbai attacks by terrorists on Nov 26, at about 9:30 PM. The terrorists sprayed the restaurant with bullets from inside the restaurant from outside. They killed 10 persons and injured many others. The restaurant was extensively damaged during the attacks.
Afterward, the cafe became popular with many Indians to commemorate the spirit of defiance. The Leopold Cafe has preserved some of the signs of the attack as a memorial.
#india #mumbai #leopold
These giants from Buddhist mythology are the yaksha. These warriors keep away evil spirits (not me apparently) and can be seen at a number of temples in Thailand. These are from the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
There are guardian Yaksha but also evil Yaksha who haunt wild places and devour travelers. They seem to include a broad class of nature-spirits, usually benevolent, but sometimes mischievous or capricious. They are associated with with water, fertility, trees, the forest, treasure and wilderness.
Interestingly, male yaksas are either fearsome warriors or portly and stout. Females are known as yaksinis and are generally beautiful young women. The one above seems to have a well-developed chest, but we are told that this is supposed to be a male.
We toured a collection of nineteen architectural astronomical instruments built by the Kachwaha Rajput king Sawai Jai Singh in 1734. A Unesco World Heritage site, Jantar Mantar features the world’s largest stone sundial. This photo shows the observation deck of the vrihat samrat yantra (the world’s largest sundial)
With the instruments you can observe astronomical positions with the naked eye. The observatory demonstrates Ptolemaic positional astronomy which was shared by many civilizations.
One of our tours in New Dehli was the Bahai House of Worship, also known as the Lotus Temple. This was completed in 1986 and serves as the Mother Temple. CNN reported it as the most visited building in the world in 2015 with perhaps 4 million visits per year.
There appears to be over 2 million Bahai worshipers in India at this time. We managed to get in just as they were finishing a service. The singing was quite sublime.
I am not sure most would agree with the following statement, but some of the research shows that the growth of the Bahai Faith in India has been greatly assisted by the recognition of Krishna as a Messenger or Manifestation of God, alongside Jesus, Muhammad, Zarathustra and Baha u llah himself.
We just came back from our favorite Indian restaurant here in Winnipeg. My favorite deserts are the gulab jamum.
Here, milk and cheese solids are prepared by heating milk till the water content has evaporated. The remaining milk solids, known as khoya are kneaded into a dough, with a small amount of flour. They are shaped into small heavenly balls and deep-fried in oil or ghee till they get to a golden brown color. The fried balls are then soaked in a light sugar syrup and flavored with green cardamon.
Rare is the time that I eat so much that I begin to hate myself. But after finishing a few gulab jamun, I began hating the happy couple beside us.
#india #gulab #travel #indianfood
One of the highlights of our India trip was several nights at the Lake Palace. Built in 1743, the Lake Palace was home to the rulers of Udaipur, is now a heritage hotel run by the Taj group of hotels. It stands in the midst of the 696 hectare man-made Lake Pichola. The magic starts with a short boat ride from the mainland to the hotel. The hotel is one of the few buildings in the world completely surrounded by water.
Just as we entered, we were showered with rose petals from someone on the upper level. The staff are exceptional of course. There are 83 spacious rooms and suites. The center courtyard has an enchanting Lily Pond. A sole musician is often playing softly in the courtyard. In the evening, local artists provided the entertainment.
There are a few places to dine in the evening. All of it was tremendous.